Artists use artificial intelligence to bring their creations to life

  • Hannah
  • June 13, 2021
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Albert Einstein has been credited with saying “creativity is intelligence having fun.” Einstein would likely be impressed with the artificial intelligence now being used to help create modern works of art, whether it’s painting and sculpture, music, or even the written word. Brook Silva-Braga met some of the humans briging AI creations to life.

Video Transcript


Albert Einstein has been credited with saying, “creativity is intelligence having fun.” We can only guess what Einstein might think about the artificial intelligence now being used to help create modern works of art. And that term has a broad definition. From painting and sculpture, to music and even the written word. Brook Silva-Braga met some of the humans bringing these AI creations to life.

OK. Venus de Milo, I recognize her.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Ben Snell starts out with a library of 1,200 classical sculptures.

BEN SNELL: Yeah. I got a Caesar. At some point you would find “Winged Victory”.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: And tells a $90 computer to study them.

BEN SNELL: And I ask it to try to find connections between the sculptures and to still them into their most basic forms.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: A machine learning algorithm churns for about a day and then Snell tells it to design a sculpture itself. How many tries do you give it?

BEN SNELL: I just give it one.


BEN SNELL: This is it. This was the first one it made.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: He turns the computer off, chops its bits into bits, and then casts that computer dust into the sculpture it itself dreamt up.

BEN SNELL: The device’s creativity, for lack of a better word, and my creativity are inextricably intertwined. We’re beginning to have dialogues with these machines.


BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: We’re also singing duets. Holly Herndon trained an AI to harmonize on the album, “Proto”.

(SINGING) [INAUDIBLE] and contradictions so.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Programmers coaxed a machine learning network into painting portrait of Edmond de Belamy. Christie’s sold it for $432,000.

ALEXANDER REBEN: What you’re seeing now are all the sensors I have on my head.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Alexander Reben taught an algorithm to interpret his eye movement in brain waves. It judges what pictures he likes best.

ALEXANDER REBEN: So that’s what it landed on for this round.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: And uses his preferences to create a new portrait.

ALEXANDER REBEN: I think an interesting question that arises from this is, do we value art made by people more than we’re going to value art made by a machine?

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: To test the question, he’s intentionally blurring the line.

ALEXANDER REBEN: So this is a sculpture described by the AI.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Programming a computer to type up art ideas that he executes himself.

ALEXANDER REBEN: The first plunger is simply a normal plunger, but the rest represent a series of plungers with more and more of the handle removed.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: It also creates a back story.

ALEXANDER REBEN: The work is now considered a landmark of conceptual art and it was even featured on an episode of “Seinfeld” in 1997. I then asked it to create a “Seinfeld” script and it did just that. Elaine hits George on the head with a plunger and there’s an argument about if it’s art or not. It’s quite funny. You could definitely see it has a “Seinfeld” tint to it.


ALEXANDER REBEN: Yeah. The things that comes up with seem creative, which again, is what surprises me.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: But it’s not creative, right? Or is it?

ALEXANDER REBEN: That’s a good question. I mean, that’s kind of a philosophical question. It probably doesn’t have imagination, but maybe it has something different that we don’t even have a name for.

Maybe it has a different way of thinking. And here I am talking right now like it has this or it does that. Even knowing these systems, I find myself putting animal like or human like attributes into them.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Artists emphasize that general artificial intelligence, an independent, conscious machine, that’s a long way off. For now, machine learning networks simply find patterns in existing work, and with human help, spit out a variation on the theme.

OSCAR SHARP: It’s like we have found a way to get a bunch of stuff that humans did and give it hands so it can type or give it a mouth so it can talk. What would this pile of screenplays type if it were able to type a screenplay?

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Oscar Sharp has directed four short films written by an AI.

What are we doing?

I don’t want to be honest with you.

You don’t have to be a doctor.

I’m not sure.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: But when Sharp trained his AI writer on action films for the forthcoming “Bobo and Girlfriend”, what came out was mostly a commentary on what went in.

ALEXANDER REBEN: Turns out though, when you turn on the machine that you’ve trained on lots of action movies, it spits out white hot misogyny. All of the dudes doing all this super tough guy stuff and, you know, blowing things up and killing people.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: And the female lead doesn’t even get a name.

OSCAR SHARP: Yeah. Bobo, basically assaulting this woman, whose name is literally Girlfriend.

Hey, Girlfriend.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: This is one of the big concerns about this technology though, right? It just reflects back humanity and maybe humanity needs to be improved upon.

OSCAR SHARP: It’s a fair ground mirror that shows us ourselves and it exaggerates things that we maybe were ignoring.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: The machines aren’t just training on human art, but being trained by human engineers. Are they artists now? Enter the human lawyers.

So if you make an algorithm that can produce paintings and I use the algorithm to produce a painting, whose painting is it?

JESSICA FJELD: It might be both of ours.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: Harvard Law’s Jessica Fjeld points to the case of that Edmond de Belamy painting, made and sold by the French art collective Obvious, using a tool kit made by American teen Robbie Barrett.

They did not credit me and, you know, I was not mentioned. And they– I didn’t get any of the money.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: As a legal matter, does Robbie Barrett have a claim to any of that money?

JESSICA FJELD: This is all in dispute right now. Does he have an argument that he’s entitled to a portion of ownership of that work? Yes.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: We found so much of this generative art is ultimately a commentary on our relationship to machines.

BEN SNELL: This was a computer and it made this.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: For Ben Snell, an appreciation of what they do for us.

BEN SNELL: Creating this sculpture is affording the computer a body.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: And what he says they’ll never do alone.

BEN SNELL: AI can write poetry, but you can’t have a conversation with it. You can’t understand why it made what it’s made. I don’t think purely generative work will ever have the same place in our heart that regular, sort of, traditional art does.

BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: In the tradition of the Greek God who mutilated himself and was reborn as a tree, Snell named the sculpture “Attis.” For “CBS This Morning Saturday”, Brook Silva-Braga, New York.

I actually shot a story of a computer that wrote a musical in London. It never aired.

Yeah. One of the computers in this–

Yeah, yeah.

–story did too.


But I’m not sure they make a whole lot of sense.

I feel like it’s this round circle conversation.


As they were saying, and if you created the technology that then makes the beautiful art, whose is it? All of that.

Should we just make the remaining 45 minutes of the show a discussion on that.

It could be, right?

We can just keep going around–

No, it could.


It could. Maybe the computer, the AI could join us.

Tony and Ryan would love that.

Yeah. That would good.

Right? Don’t you think.

I like that.

That movie part of that was fascinating.


About all the violence and then all of sudden, the girl has no name.

Well, you know what? Actually, moving on to something.